OSHA Investigates Pennsylvania Blast that Killed Worker, Injured Others

Aug. 14, 2002
Sunday was no day of rest for employees at Newstech PA and rescue workers from the Northampton, Pa., area. An explosion Sunday afternoon at Newstech's paper recycling plant in killed one worker and critically injured two others, prompting an investigation by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

Tom Doherty of OSHA's Allentown office said the investigation could take as long as six months. The agency's goal, he added, "is to determine what happened, what caused it and what could be done in the future to prevent it from happening again."

Plant management said that around 4:15 p.m. on Sunday, a high-pressure pump unit ruptured at the plant, killing John Thomas Stefano. The Northampton County Coroner, Zachary Lysek, said Stefano died of massive blunt trauma. Stefano worked for FMSC of Bethlehem, Pa., a subcontractor at the site. FMSC employee Edward Kavcak and Newstech employee Joe Yost were life-flighted to the area's trauma center, Lehigh Valley Hospital in Salisbury Township, where they were listed in critical condition.

Stefano and Kavcak worked for subcontractor FMSC of Bethlehem. Yost worked for Newstech.

According to preliminary reports, Stefano, Yost and Kavcak were standing near the pump when it ruptured, releasing steam with a temperature estimated to be as high as 140 degrees F.

The facility was shut down immediately, with local authorities, OSHA and investigators from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection investigating the cause of the accident. The DEP indicated the incident did not pose an environmental threat.

As for company management, "We are fully cooperating with OSHA and will continue to do so as the cause and circumstances surrounding this incident are thoroughly examined," said Newstech Vice President Mark Roseborough.

Newstech offered counseling to employees on Monday, following the incident, said Roseborough, who added, "On behalf of the owners and management of the Newstech PA plant in Northampton, I wish to express heartfelt condolences to the family of the man who was killed and to the families of the men who were injured in [the] unfortunate accident".

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